29 Winter Pastas for Feeling Cozy No Matter the Temperature
We don't care if you're in southern California or northern Maine, it's winter and you deserve comfort pasta by the bowlful.
Photo by Heami Lee.
It’s officially winter, the holidays are over, and two distinct roads lay ahead before the seasonal affective disorder really kicks in. First, the path of sobriety and sticking to whatever food-related resolution you might have committed to after 19 proseccos on New Year’s Eve. Second is the path of surrender and accepting that the best way to keep warm will always be a big plate of pasta and a few glasses of wine. If the latter is more appealing to you, we’ve got more than enough recipes to get you through the cold and the darkness. These pasta recipes range from the simple to the soigné, but all celebrate the noodle and the multitude of rich sauce blankets available within the Italian carb canon.
Let’s start with what is one of the simplest pasta recipes in the world: cacio e pepe. It's simple, sure, but doesn’t necessarily make it one of the easiest. It’s only three ingredients and a crash course in the art of creating the perfect sauce-to-noodle ratio with pasta water. As long as you have a block of cheese in the fridge and some pepper left in your grinder, you are only about 15 minutes away from one of the most comforting dishes in existence.
If there’s one thing Italians take seriously, it’s adherence to traditional pasta recipes, and we’ll be damned if we let cream anywhere near our carbonara. Upgrade to super thick spaghettoni, switch out the bacon and cream for guanciale and egg yolks and you’ll know why there is only one acceptable way to make this.
Double the cheese and add in a splash of soy sauce for an extra kick of umami that comes just shy of knocking you out.
And speaking of tradition, nothing says old-school Italian quite like spaghetti and meatballs. This version is Italian-American cooking in its purest form and will make you want to buy checkered red-and-white tablecloths and drink wine from little rocks glasses while Frank Sinatra croons softly in the background.
Need something even more hearty than spaghetti and meatballs? It’s been known to happen, and lasagna is the most reliable prescription, especially this version from Matty Matheson, which weighs about 10 pounds—three pounds of which are mozzarella cheese—by the time it’s ready for the oven.
Got five minutes? Good, then you’ve got enough time to assemble this über-easy pasta with cheese, butter, garlic, and angel hair pasta. Best consumed in the dead of winter in front of a laptop screen, while scrolling through video-on-demand choices for half an hour.
If you’re going to break with tradition, then at least make it count, like Missy Robbins does with this recipe. Her baked interpretation of cacio e pepe has mascarpone, pecorino, and ricotta cheese in it, and purists will gladly look the other way as they eat it out of the baking pan.
This isn’t exactly a thirty minute meal, but if you’re looking for an excuse to stay in one of these weekends and make a culinary masterpiece, then look no further. Homemade green spinach noodles and slow-simmered lamb ragu are not to be rushed. It’s about four hours from start to finish, during which you can drink all the wine and listen to all the podcasts in your safe place while everything freezes outside.
“So what? No fuckin' ziti?” are not words you ever want to hear when you’re cooking for loved ones. But once you’ve served this ziti dish that’s fit for a mess hall, you will be expected to make it again and again and be forced to contend with the disappointment of others when you don’t.
Is there anything more consoling than penne alla vodka? Not just food-wise, but in the universe in general, is there anything more consoling than penne alla vodka? The answer is not really. Not only is it luxurious and easy to make, but it’s the one pasta dish where taking shots of vodka during prep is entirely acceptable.
The secret to this no-fuss pasta is in the garnish. The sauce is made of canned tomatoes and eggplant, but it’s the fennel, Thai basil, fresh chilies, and smoked ricotta that really bring it to life and remind you that pasta can be whatever you want it to be.
"Vegan lasagna, surely, that can't be?" you ask. Not with that attitude. A little resourcefulness goes a long way in matters of cheese substitution, and Cro Mags frontman John Joseph guided us to lactose-free greatness with faux-mozzarella shreds and dairy-free ricotta.
Macaroni au gratin is apparently French for "fucking tasty mac and cheese." It's also really easy to make, no roux required. It's just three cheeses melted into two cups of cream and blasted under the broiler for a few fateful minutes of crust creation. This is the wool blanket of pasta dishes.
Pistachios, spinach, basil, and lemon zest take center stage in this unconventional take on pesto that will satisfy and not paralyze you after eating it. The flavors in this dish are big and green and perfect for winter reset.
Mollusks and pasta are one of the great food marriages, with bivalve salinity offering a perfect counterpoint to the acidity of white wine, tomatoes, and fresh herbs that we’re used to finding in lighter sauces. This spaghetti recipe calls for clams and mussels and is full of perfect bites of seafood, tomatoes, and pasta that will allow you to brush up on your twirling and seafood-picking fork skills.
If you don't know pansotti, you haven't really lived a fully actualized life. It's a pasta stuffed with mascarpone, parmesan, and ricotta but that won't make you feel stuffed. You can make the pesto out of whatever you like if you can't get your hands on stinging nettles (might be a little early for those), but you should definitely make your own pasta from scratch.
Fideos is the pasta dish you can make with whatever scraps you have lying around your kitchen, like the tail end of that box of spaghetti you've been hanging onto for months, the herbs you bought last week that are wilting in your crisper drawer, and whatever veggies you have hanging out in there, too.
Repeat after us: anything can be breakfast if you put an egg on it.
Our pal Meyhem Lauren showed us how to make this simple but flavorful shrimp and Henny pasta over on our How-To channel, if you're looking for a step-by-step tutorial.
You could just use some good, rustic bread to soak up all of the tomato sauce from your shakshuka, but some thicc rigatoni does the job just as well.
Winter is as good a time as any to cue up Big Night and attempt to recreate the near monstrosity that is the signature dish of Stanley Tucci and Tony Shalhoub's seaside New Jersey Italian restaurant.
A rich, creamy almond pesto from acclaimed Philly pasta aficionado Marc Vetri, paying homage to another Philadelphia culinary luminary, Han Chiang of Han Dynasty.
Like a roast pork sandwich, jus and rabe and all, but on a bed of fluffy pasta clouds.
If you don't have it in you to make your own spaghetti alla chittara from scratch, some fat bucatini will do just fine.
A new classic from husband and wife chef duo Angie Rito and Scott Tacinelli, masterminds behind Manhattan's newly beloved Don Angie.
Everyone needs a solid meat sauce recipe in their repertoire, and this one should be yours.
This ragu recipe from our good pal Matty will take you all day to let all seven freaking pounds of meat braise, so keep this recipe in mind the next time you're snowed in for the weekend.
Sweet kabocha squash and tender baby spinach nicely blanketed in a creamy mornay sauce, pasta sheets, and plenty of mozzarella.
The classic potluck dish, perfect for winter dinner parties, in under an hour.